Friday, July 20, 2012

Meet Christian + Julio.

Today was supposed to start with a rickety collectvio ride to Complexo do Alemao and end with me covered in paint. A few times now I've lent my [uber amateur] scraping and painting skills to help fix up a school in the complexo that just got a few computers and wanted to turn a pretty nasty looking old classroom into a computer lab used to teach marketable IT skills to young adults in the community. Anyways, as most things here don't usually go quite according to plan, today was no exception. So despite the beautiful sunny day (the first since I've been here!) the final day of the painting project took a rain check = Day off to explore Rio and play in the sun :) Just when I thought that my day off would have nothing to do with either favelas or fashion BAM! Enter Christian + Julio.

belleza [ipanema beach]

I started out making the few mile walk from Copacabana beach (my 'hood) to Ipanema. Basked in the sun, took in the stunning views, took a few pictures, grabbed a coconut. When I crossed over to Ipanema some neons caught my eye (as they always do). We all know that neon is the new black. Despite the fact that I have been determined Not to purchase anything wearable, as to firstly stick to my tight budget (I am technically unemployed) and more importantly practice what I am currently preaching (teaching) about sustainability in fashion, I just couldn't resist.
neon beauties that pulled me in. 
(call my crazy but this spread isn't so far off from the bible's's most recent accessory post entitled, "Shopping Alert: Neon Jewelry")
Meet Christian. I walked up to this guy with his blanket of goods. Happy to learn that he was in fact the artist and did in fact speak spanish we started to chat a bit. After I mentioned I was working in Complexo do Alemao and also making jewelry (you know, to get some street cred - which you bet I got) he told me that he too lived in a favela, Morro do Cantagalo, the one just up the hill from Ipanema, famously known for holding some of the most beautiful views of the cityI bought a few bracelets and went on my way. I proceeded down the beach only a few steps when my curiosity made me take a quick turn in reverse and 15 seconds later I was back at Christian's "shop".
Christian's creations. [posto 7, ipanema]
Meet Julio, Christian's fellow artist friend and favela neighbor. They make and design their own jewelry and every morning walk down the steep favela hills, pass through the wealthy touristic area of Ipanema and set up shop at Posto 7, where they sell their goods to beach bumming gringos, such as myself. Both are in good spirits and claim design inspiration from the stacked "morros" (hills) and rolling waves of Ipanema, beautiful story and makes me (the gringo tourist) feel pretty good. But after I dig a little deeper they cut the touristy/salesman banter and both admit that they create because it's the only way they can put money in their pockets. 
Julio's creations [posto 7, ipanema]
These guys got me thinking about this other aspect of fashion in the favelas: fashion as a business. 
The classes I am teaching use fashion to promote self-expression, sustainability principles and community pride, all extremely valid values that I am of course extremely passionate about. There are a handfull of NGOs that support similar causes promoting culture, music and various forms of the arts in the favelas (Afroraggae being the most well known). But if you scour the internet in search of something similar but on the business side of this creativity, the SUSTAINABLE SIDE, you will find that it is ignored. 

Do these guys die over the September issue of Vogue? No.
Are they fellow members of the WWKD (karl) fanclub? Nope.
Do they have "good" fashion sense themselves? Textbook definition would say no.
They don't create out of passion for the trade. It is just their j-o-b. 
And there it is again. FASHION IS IN THE FAVELAS - but from a very different perspective.
new neon arm candy.
...a few more questions come to mind as I stare at my new second favorite bracelet (after Loommates of course). Do these guys have the skills to do this professionally? Most definitely. Is there an interest in their product? The fashion gods say so. Do they earn a lot? At 2 Reals a pop, Big no. DO THEY HAVE THE BUSINESS RESOURCES TO MAKE THIS A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am sensing a major unmet need here...the gears in my head are beginning to churn, but I'm not yet really sure in which direction...

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